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Top River Voyages for 2014August 19, 2013 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
|Avalon Visionary is one of several Avalon Waterways ships plying the Rhine and Danube rivers.|
When your clients return this summer from a river cruise and rave about their smooth, hassle-free vacation and close-up exposure to storied cities, quaint villages and pastoral country scenes, they’re hooked. Why not start planning their next river cruise adventure? Here’s a sample of new, trendy or simply unusual river voyages for 2014.
Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux: How about a trip to Aquitaine? Settled by the Romans, ruled in the past by the British, and today profoundly French, the region is home to Bordeaux and vineyards galore. Gastronomy enthusiasts and oenophiles might appreciate knowing about Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s new seven-night “Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux” itinerary that operates roundtrip from Bordeaux in 2014.
Between April and November, the 132-passenger River Royale sails the Garonne, Dordogne, and Gironde rivers. Traveling the Medoc wine route, passengers will savor France’s regional wines and cuisine, sampling everything from duck confit to caviar d’Aquitaine. They’ll learn about Sauternes, meet local winemakers and experience a wine-pairing lunch at Chateau d’Arsac as well as enjoy other tastings.
|Uniworld’s River Royale offers guests dinner with a view.|
One onboard treat is an Epicurean dinner designed by French Master Chef Philippe Etchebest, owner of the two-Michelin-star Relais and Chateaux Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint-Emilion. Clients also may taste Arcachon oysters onboard and view a Cannele-making demonstration.
Cruise fares start at $3,199 to $4,299 per person double, varying by departure date. Starting in 2014, all Uniworld fares will cover items such as gratuities, shore trips with local guides, free Internet and Wi-Fi, arrival and departure day transfers and unlimited wine, beer, spirits, and non-alcoholic beverages onboard.
A Knitting Cruise for Crafty Clients: The age-old handicraft of knitting will be celebrated on a new AmaWaterways themed voyage on the Danube River, departing December 27, 2014. Yes, mature travelers are a good fit but so are younger guests. Why? The digital age has inspired a new generation of crafters, who connect via social channels. “Knitting appeals to a younger generation these days, and we thought it would be a fun and creative outlet for our guests,” said Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways’ executive vice president and co-owner.
Hosted by textile expert Barry Klein, owner of Trendsetter Yarns in Los Angeles, this unique knitting cruise will feature fashion trend forums, the latest luxury yarns and classes on new stitch patterns and techniques. Klein has designed patterns for Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits and Knitters Magazine, and he’s authored many knitting books.
|Guests in Scenic Cruises’ suites can sightsee from their private balcony.|
“Younger knitters may be using the same techniques and equipment as previous generations, but their use of Facebook and Twitter to form online communities and share patterns is a distinctly modern twist,” added Karst. If you’re seeking a way to promote this to younger clients, she says to “think of this cruise as an onboard knitting meet-up for people of all levels, from beginners to advanced.”
Offered on the 161-passenger Ama Bella, the knitting cruise will begin in Vilshofen, Germany. Guests will receive guided tours in Vilshofen; Bratislava, Slovakia; Linz and Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary. One highlight is an in-depth tour of the Benedictine abbey in Melk, Austria. On New Year’s Eve, clients will enjoy music, dancing and a champagne toast at midnight. Fares start at $2,799 per person double. An optional three-night Prague land program is $750 per person.
Memories of Mandalay: If clients seek “the exotic” they might consider Viking River Cruises’ new 16-day itinerary in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand during 2014. Entitled “Memories of Mandalay,” the voyage marks Viking’s first offering on the Irrawaddy River.
The land-sea journey begins in Bangkok, where guests will explore the city’s colorful landmarks, including the floating markets on the Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace. The land portion of the itinerary continues in Yangon, the former Burmese capital, also known as Rangoon. Guests will view Strand Road colonial-era architecture, historic Buddhist temples, a local marketplace and Shwedagon Pagoda, the storied, glowing “Golden Pagoda.”
Then guests board the newly refurbished Viking Mandalay for cruising along the Irrawaddy River. This river itinerary includes the colonial frontier post of Thayetmyo, the Italian-built forts of Minhla and Gwechaung, the Mya-Tha-Lun Pagoda in Magway, the Sale monasteries and sites of Bagan. River cruise guests will also visit the pottery town of Yandabo, explore ancient Burmese history at Ava and Amarapura, shop for local handicrafts including tapestries and woodcarvings, and tour Mandalay.
|The ruins of Aggstein castle overlook the Danube in Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region, a highlight of a number of Avalon Waterways cruises.|
Guests then fly back to Bangkok for a final night’s stay. At press time, pricing began at $5,000 per person; the cruise includes 14 guided tours. For more details, visit www.vrc.com/myanmar.
Gems of the Seine: New from Scenic Cruises in 2014 is an 11-day “Gems of the Seine River Cruise”—operated by Scenic Gem, a new “Space Ship” launching in late spring. This vessel is essentially identical in features to the other Space Ship vessels operated by the line and has the same space ratios.
But it will be slightly smaller in length at 361 feet and carry just 126 guests. The new ship’s smaller size will allow it to be the only river cruise ship certified to sail all the way through northern France to the port in Honfleur instead of having to disembark guests in Rouen. The new cruise operates voyages on multiple dates from July through October 2014; pricing starts at $6,135 per person double.
If clients love to sightsee with the latest techie tools, they’ll appreciate Scenic’s “Tailormade,” a personal hand-held GPS unit. Guests take it ashore and while walking or cycling, they’ll have audio and mapping capabilities. The devices are available on all Scenic cruises.
In addition, the same unit can be used on many voyages for a different usage called “Scenic Riverview.” As the vessel sails along, guests may opt to receive expert commentary on various sites from the unit as the ship passes specific GPS waypoints—600 or so at this point and growing.
Romantic Rhine Sojourn: In the summer of 1878, Mark Twain and his family lived in Heidelberg, Germany; he wrote passionately about the Rhine saying it was “from one enchanting aspect to another in ceaseless procession.” Clients who desire to feel the same way might want to check out Tauck’s new seven-night “Romantic Rhine: Basel to Amsterdam–North bound” cruise for 2014.
Navigating through the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland, Tauck’s new 130-passenger Inspire, launching in 2014, will sail past quaint villages and big cities, historic ruins and modern buildings, castles and cathedrals, as well as pastoral countryside, vineyards, woodlands and valleys. On Day 3, clients set off for included sightseeing in either Strasbourg or Baden-Baden, and they also receive a choice between a visit to a spa or the Black Forest.
Highlights of the new 67-cabin river vessel? It will have 22 spacious suites of 300 square feet each. To increase natural sunlight on the lower deck, Tauck also will create eight loft cabins that extend from the first to the second decks. All windows in the loft cabins open to the outside. Cruise fares begin at $3,990 per person double. With special solo traveler savings, clients will pay no single supplement in category 1; that’s a savings of up to 50 percent.
Beer, Wellness, Golf, History: One of the best ways to get clients to book a cruise is to find a voyage that dovetails with their personal passion in life. In 2014, Avalon Waterways is increasing its special interest cruises by 30 percent to meet the burgeoning demand for such special interest travel.
Clients might choose from new beer tasting, golf, wellness and World War I history cruises. Patrick Clark, the line’s managing director, says Avalon Waterways knows firsthand that cruisers enjoy the beer tastings on Austria and Germany cruises, so “now, we’re inviting like-minded travelers to come together for a cruise focused on discovering regional beers.”
A brew-themed “Austrian Highlights & Bavaria” cruise departs October 13, 2014. Expect onboard beer tastings, history brewery visits and onboard lectures that explain European beer-brewing techniques.
If they desire a bit healthier approach, the July 7 sailing of the “Blue Danube Discovery” itinerary is wellness-themed. Travelers will begin the morning with onboard exercise programs featuring stretching and yoga. Other perks include lectures on healthy lifestyles and healthy dining options.
Avalon also fields new golf- and World War I-themed cruises next year. Plus, it continues its line-up of popular art, jazz, Jewish heritage, wine, culinary, and other themed voyages.